For as long as there’ve been creative works, there will always be more creative works that are either inspired by or that pay homage to works before them, and the original Final Fantasy video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System is one such example of this.
Many of the game mechanics and creatures used in the original Final Fantasy were borrowed from Dungeons and Dragons, such as magic users only being able to use so many spells of certain levels per day, or even some of the monsters, such as sahuagin and mind flayers.
When Final Fantasy gained popularity in the 1990’s (which persists even to this day!), many people began working together to bring Final Fantasy back to its tabletop roots, with the largest of these endeavors being a long running project known as the Final Fantasy RPG project.
Today, I will show you all an abridged history of fan made Final Fantasy tabletop RPGs.
1) FInal Fantasy Tactics Miniatures Game
This is perhaps the oldest of the games showcased today; it’s a tabletop skirmish game based on the Final Fantasy Tactics video game for the Playstation. Though when I say “based on,” what I really mean is that it’s a direct copy of the rules of the game.
As in, its creator literally just wrote down the mechanics of the video game as the rules for this tabletop game (which, admittedly is no mean feat).
Unfortunately, this very fact also makes the game nearly unplayable, since many of the calculations are so redundant that it’d numb the average human mind after two rounds of combat where something actually happens.
This game also had some creative license taken with the classes available. There are a few additional classes that weren’t originally included in the Final Fantasy Tactics video game. They instead came from the real time strategy game Age of Empires.
It’s not by any means good, or even playable, but the Final Fantasy Tactics Miniatures Games is still noteworthy as an artifact from the Web 1.0 era. This game was made at a time when personal publishing tools were much less robust, and for all its flaws, it somehow managed to survive into this modern era of the internet.
2) Final Fantasy d20
Final Fantasy d20 originally started as a conversion of Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 meant to sport character classes and races from the Final Fantasy franchise, but has recently been updated to use the Pathfinder rules.
The fact that it uses Pathfinder makes it seem, at first blush, like one of the more accessible games, but it actually points out what I believe is something of a misconception about games with “d20” affixed at the end of the title: they’re not all the same, and knowing one won’t necessarily make you a master of all the others.
All the races and classes from Pathfinder have been gutted to make room for Final Fantasy’s equally robust selection; so the similarities between Final Fantasy d20 and Pathfinder mostly end at the core mechanics of the game.
Even still, Final Fantasy d20 does a good job bringing Final Fantasy to the d20 ruleset. It has many of the staples of Final Fantasy, such as Limit Breaks (the super powered attacks character can make after taking enough damage), along with familiar ideas from most d20 fantasy games, such as the capacity for multiclassing and prestige classes.
Most importantly though, Final Fantasy d20 has an active community to this day, and is still being updated, with some of the most recent additions as of this writing being a Samurai class (as they’re depicted in Final Fantasy, of course) and the inclusion of an official character sheet!
3) Final Fantasy d6
Final Fantasy d6 is a spin-off of the Second Edition of the Final Fantasy RPG Project. It was created as a splinter project when the 3rd Edition was announced, but showed no signs of being released.
So fans of the fan made game took it upon themselves to make their own version of the game that simplified the rules some.
As the name implies, a bulk of the game’s mechanics are based around the humble six sided dice, but lowering the size of the dice and numbers used (the game this was based off used d100) is as far as the game goes regarding simplification.
Final Fantasy d6 has quite a few detailed subsystems, such as different weapons all having their own idiosyncrasies besides just doing more damage than the others. As an example: wands and staves allow spells to activate faster; spears and whips get critical hits more often.
What I think really makes this game shine is that there’s a great deal of customization available. The game offers detailed item creation rules, but still sports a wide range of gear available à la carte for players who just want to pick items from a list.
It’s not a tremendously simple game as it’s initially described, but it’s otherwise exactly what it says on the tin: a Final Fantasy game that uses d6s.
4) SeeD: A Final Fantasy Inspired Tabletop RPG
Continuing along the path of games based on the products of the Final Fantasy RPG Project, SeeD is a remake of the project’s 3rd edition, which was notorious for being so complex and convoluted that it was practically unplayable without some kind of machine assistance.
SeeD, instead of seeing this as a problem, embraces this idea. It makes use of many double and triple digit numbers, and includes multi-step formulae as a part of actions. Additionally, SeeD is also a modular system, with many distinctly different subsystems to accomplish the same tasks, such as non-combat skills and character classes.
In order to combat the cumbersome nature of having a large and varied rules set, SeeD has its rules distributed as a wiki. Hyperlinks are used to direct the reader to other relevant sections, such as to the skill list section from the various different skill system pages.
Also listed on this wiki is an archive of tools designed specifically for running SeeD.
This game is incredibly detailed, especially for a home-brewed variety, and is a culmination of years of effort from many different people, and even has a second edition which seeks to divorce itself from its Final Fantasy roots.
According to the update logs of the wiki, they both seem to still be maintained and updated!
5) Final Fantasy RPG 4th Edition
The fourth direct product of the Final Fantasy RPG project goes in a different direction from all its predecessors and their spinoffs by being an overall simplification of the game, with considerably less customization.
The forward of the game is also very straightforward with what its creators intended with two particular design choices standing out: that the game should be modular, to accommodate works from others; and that the game should in fact be two games with mostly divided rules, a game about non-combat exploration and another about tactical combat.
These are goals that the FFRPG 4th Edition succeeds in. How a character decides to dispatch enemies has very little bearing on what a character is able to do outside the heat of combat, and in fact, there is an optional set of rules meant to remove (or at least minimize) the role of combat in this game, leaving character class as little more than a narrative detail.
What’s most impressive about the Final Fantasy RPG 4th edition is that everything it builds off from was the collective works of other fans of the Final Fantasy franchise, who built their own tabletop game from scratch as an homage to the video game series.
The legacy of more than 20 years this game was built on gives it a unique set of mechanics, even if the options and selections seem sparse by comparison to it’s older editions.
So there you have it, some of the most outstanding works (for good or ill) of people who sought to bring Final Fantasy back to the tabletop after it adopted its own distinct form. Even if you’re not a fan of Final Fantasy, these are still good things to look into if you’re interested in creating your own sort of tabletop game.
And if you are a fan of Final Fantasy, then much like the video games themselves, you have a wide variety to choose from, each with their own unique aspects to offer.
Aaron der Schaedel is a fan of both tabletop and video game RPGs that set out to research this oddly expansive yet niche topic in honor of Final Fantasy’s 30th anniversary. He also wants you to know that a Google search using the names as they’re presented here will lead you to the rulebooks of the games if you’re curious to read them yourself.
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I am become death, destroyer of worlds.